Emergency alert system is growing in Cloquet, Carlton CountyAthletes, college students and families on Cloquet’s southeast side just got a little safer, thanks to the installation of a new emergency siren at Braun Park.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Athletes, college students and families on Cloquet’s southeast side just got a little safer, thanks to the installation of a new emergency siren at Braun Park.
“With the college, the soccer fields, the baseball and softball fields, a number of people could be outside in inclement weather,” Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande said, noting the city already had sirens by the water tower, Churchill School and Athletic Park. “When the sirens go off, people need to be seeking shelter quickly, because there’s probably a major weather event on the way.”
While weather is the most common reason, the sirens may be activated by the 911 dispatch operators in case of any emergency, from the more obvious tornadoes, large hail or damaging winds, to a hazardous material leak or some other type of natural disaster.
Carlton County Emergency Management Director Brian Belich is quick to stress the warning sirens are only the first step.
“People need to take responsibility for getting to a weather radio, turning on the TV or radio and checking the news to see what they need to be sheltering from,” Belich said, adding that Homeland Security recommends everyone own a working weather radio.
So what should a soccer team do if the siren goes off unexpectedly?
“The concession bathroom would provide some protection if it’s open,” Lamirande said. “Or people could go across the street to the college or go home to their own residences once they determine what the danger is.”
The new siren will make its wailing debut at 1 p.m. Oct. 2. All the emergency sirens in Cloquet are tested on the first Wednesday of the month at 1 p.m. That is the only time residents should feel free to proceed with their daily lives — and even then, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution.
Lamirande said the additional siren will great increase coverage for Cloquet. Belich noted that other Carlton County communities with emergency sirens include Carlton, Barnum, Kettle River, Wrenshall and Moose Lake. Each community sets its own testing schedule. He added that Moose Lake also uses its siren to call out volunteer firefighters, but it is the only community to use the sirens for that purpose that he is aware of.
The emergency manager noted that Duluth has gone to a voice-activated system rather than a siren, so officials can use words to communicate whatever emergency is threatening.
“That’s a very expensive option though,” he said.
Bellich talked about the necessity — in today’s multimedia world — of “layering” emergency messages to reach as many county residents as possible. The emergency sirens are one layer; radio and TV emergency alert messages (the ones that scroll across the bottom of a TV screen or follow the long beep on the radio) are another. Going door-to-door is yet another layer of notification, one firefighters and law enforcement officials definitely used during last summer’s flash flooding in Carlton and Thomson.
County residents will soon have access to yet another way to get emergency notifications, a proposed “mass notification” system.
“The county is looking to contract with a private company that provides mass notifications of public emergencies through landline phones, cell phones, text message and email,” he said. “People will need to pre-register, but it will be a free service. We can send evacuation messages, weather messages, any kind of emergency message.”
“The goal is to send the message as quickly as possible to the general public,” Belich said, adding that he hopes the new mass messaging system will be activated in the next few months.
The Cloquet Police Department already offers a similar service, albeit with broader parameters, which offers residents and anyone else who registers the opportunity to receive text messages and/or emails with emergency messages, weather warnings, crime watch information and various other updates offered by police department staff. Sign up for those updates at http://nixle.com/cloquet-police-department/.